- The Darkest Craving
Something soft brushed against her cheek, trailed along her jaw. “I’m here, Tink. I’m not going anywhere.”
His voice. Soothing, beseeching. Pulling her out of the darkness, out of the horror, and into a light...a growing light...brighter and brighter. A moan left her as she struggled to rise.
“That’s the way, beautiful girl. Come on, sweetheart. You can do it.”
Her eyelids pried apart, and in the next instant she was peering into Kane’s handsome face. I’m safe now. He’ll keep me safe.
Their gazes got tangled up, neither of them able to look away, and relief softened his expression. Yet, despite the relief, lines of tension bracketed his eyes and mouth. His skin was pallid, and his clothing wrinkled. His hair was spiked, as if he’d stuck his finger into a light socket.
“Where’d I go?” Her voice was a mere croak. She tried to reach up to massage the soreness out of her throat, but her arm proved too heavy to lift. “Where am I?”
His lashes fused, hiding whatever emotion her words had elicited. “I brought you to my bedroom.”
Her gaze, the only thing she could currently move, swept around to find...yes, Kane’s bedroom. She recognized it immediately—while hers was small, plain and filled with eight cots and seven other females, his was total luxury. A gold-and-crystal chandelier hung overhead. The walls were splashed with gold-framed paintings by famous Fae artists who had died throughout the centuries.
Josephina sprawled across the huge, ultra-soft four-poster bed, wearing a T-shirt far too big for her, as well as her gloves, with a velvet blanket covering the lower half of her body.
“Do you remember the bar?” Kane asked. “The fight? The three warriors you touched?”
Remember...yes. She’d touched one, then the other, and the other, and a surge of strength had overcome her, such beautiful strength. But then...oh, then, the darkness had enclosed her, dragging her down, down, down, into a cavern of despair and helplessness.
“You drew the evil out of them and into yourself. I carried you to the palace,” Kane continued. He removed his hand from her face, becoming her anchor, the only thing holding her here. “You’ve been in bed for four days.”
The realization sickened her. Her father would be angry with her—had probably even tried to force her out of bed at some point. She had duties, and she would be punished for failing them. But the real reason she panicked? Kane’s wedding was now that much closer.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I dealt with your father.”
His gorgeous hazels were still glued to her, seeming to drink her in and memorize every feature. She could barely blink, caught up in the intensity of him, captivated by the majesty of him...confused by the number of injuries on him.
“What happened to you?” she asked. “My father? Brother?”
He rubbed the angry cuts on his forehead. “Disaster.”
She’d always hated Synda’s demon, and she’d always hated the Lords’ demons. They wreaked havoc on their keepers and ruined...everything. But what she’d felt then could not compare to what she felt now. She wanted Disaster dead. “Well, thank you for taking care of me.” Besides her mother, he was the first to ever do so.
He smiled softly...tenderly. “I thought you’d curse at me.”
For a lot of things, yes. But that? Never. “Why?”
“I haven’t forgotten your desire to die, Tink,” he said, his voice a low, menacing scrape.
“Not that way,” she whispered. Never that way. The evil she’d housed would have dragged her straight into hell, condemning her to a worse fate than the one she now lived.
Kane toyed with the ends of her hair, and the contact, slight though it was, awakened the very pangs she’d battled at the dressmaker’s shop. Hunger—for him. Need—for his touch. Desire—for so much more.
“Have you ever spoken to the Moirai?” he asked.
Even the name tainted the atmosphere around her. “No.”
“Have you heard of them?”
“Of course. They claim to weave the fates.”
“Claim?” He released her to lift a cup of water from the nightstand. “You think it’s a lie?”
“Absolutely.” Until that moment, Josephina hadn’t realized how thirsty she was. Everything else was forgotten.
He placed a straw at her lips, and she sucked and sucked and sucked, the cool liquid soothing her throat.
Kane watched her mouth...her throat.
When the cup was empty, she leaned back, licked her lips.
He watched that, too.
“More?” he asked, heat darkening his eyes.
“Yes, please.” But she wasn’t sure what she wanted—more water, or more Kane.
He lifted a pitcher and poured more heavenly water into the cup. The moment the straw returned to her lips, the bottom of the cup broke. Cold liquid splashed over her, and she gasped.
“I’m so sorry,” Kane mumbled, hopping up to gather something to help. He started to dry her off, cursed, then handed her the rags.
When she finished, he hesitantly offered her another cup.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I probably needed a bath.”
His lips twitched with the barest thread of amusement. “I made sure you stayed clean.”
Cheeks heating, she drained the water. At last, strength began to return to her, running through her veins, sparking her organs to life.
“Why do you think the Moirai are liars?” Kane asked.
“Well, to start, people have free will. Fate doesn’t decide what direction they ultimately go.”
His fingers returned to her hair, as if drawn by an invisible string. “William said something similar.”
“William is quite wise.”
He rolled his eyes. “Continue.”
“Fate says everything is meant to be. But I can’t believe my mother was meant to endure such hardships. I can’t believe I was meant to be a slave.”
One-word demands had never been so...sexy. Shivering, she said, “My father decided he wanted my mother, so, he took her. It was her decision to stay here. I was born and told I had a purpose, and it was my choice to believe it or reject it.”
He peered at her, silent...thinking? “What about marriages? Do you believe there’s someone destined for everyone?”
“Oh, yes, but not everyone follows that destiny.” She hoped he heard what she wasn’t saying—he needed to be careful about Synda and White. “Hence, free will can get in the way.”
“So, you’re saying choices and destiny shape the course of our lives?”
“I think so, yes. It’s just easier to blame fate for all of the mistakes.”
He ghosted his thumb along the curve of her jaw, drawing goose bumps to the surface. “You’ve been hurt by other people’s choices.”
Caught up in the intimacy of the moment, she leaned into the touch. “So have you.”
“Yes.” A pause, as if he struggled with his next words. “The Moirai say I’m destined to start an apocalypse.”
On top of wedding the girl, White? Did he believe them?
The spell was broken. “Those hobags aren’t all-powerful, Kane.”
“Hobags?” He grinned.
How could she make him understand? “They simply thrive on chaos, planting their ideas into our heads. We think about it, we obsess about it, ultimately acting in a manner befitting what was said, thereby causing what was said to happen.”
“Like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” He arched a brow. “You know all of this, and yet you’ve never spoken to them?”
Touch me again. Gather me in your arms. Tell me you don’t desire White. “Well, I never said they hadn’t spoken to me.”
He stiffened. “So you’ve actually met with them?”
“Yes.” And the meeting had enraged her.
Years ago, the three hags told her she was destined to cause her mother’s death. All she’d managed was a few gasps before they’d shooed her away, but from that moment on, Josephina had begun to fear hurting her beloved mother in any way, and had overanalyzed her every word and action.
Josephina had stopped eating, stopped sleeping. She’d stopped visiting her mother, too afraid of what damage she might cause. After a while, the fear had become infectious. Her mother had begun to worry over Josephina’s health, and had mourned over Josephina’s perceived defection. Glorika had lost weight, energy and vitality—and soon, the king’s favor. She was cast out of his bedroom and back to the servant quarters.
There, she was treated more shamefully than ever. She was shunned by the women and secretly harassed by many of the men. The queen had taken great pleasure in humiliating her at every turn.
In the end, Glorika had killed herself. All because Josephina had stayed away from her. So, yes. Josephina had helped destroy her. Had she never worried, nothing bad would have happened to either of them. Her mother would still be alive.
“The best decision you’ll ever make is to forget what the Moirai told you,” she said.
He shook his head, dark locks of hair falling over his brow. “I carry the demon of Disaster. How could I not cause an apocalypse?”
She heard the dread in his voice, the torment. “Think about it. You’re doing everything in your power to stop yourself from causing an apocalypse, aren’t you? And yet everything you’ve done has only exacerbated the problem.”
“So I should do nothing?”
“No. You should live. Truly live. Stop looking over your shoulder, expecting disaster. Stop planning your next step based on the demon’s actions.”
He pushed out an angry breath. “I’m not sure whether you’re wise, as I first assumed, or the dumbest woman on the planet.”
Dumb? Dumb! “Well, you’re definitely not the sweetest man.”